New Jersey Bear Conflicts Increase after Gov. Closes Season on Public Land

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The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife (NJDFW) recently released their bear activity report for the first half of 2020. According to the report, bear sightings increased in every New Jersey county except Cape May County. Black bear sightings in the state increased by more than 93% compared to the same period in 2019. Even more alarming, damages and nuisance incidents attributed to black bears increased by more than 39% during the same time period.

In August 2018, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a politically charged executive order that banned black bear hunting on all the state’s public lands.

The alarming uptick in bear incidents since that ill-advised action strongly indicates a saturated and rapidly rising bear population. The numbers underscore the importance of litigation in which the Sportsmen’s Alliance, along with Safari Club International and the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance, seek a reversal of the public land closure order.  

This executive order bypassed the recommendations of trained wildlife biologists at the NJDFW and acted against the will of the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Council, which had adopted a Comprehensive Black Bear Management Plan (CCBMP) providing for bear hunting, with no exceptions for state land.  State land historically made up a full 40% of the bear hunt, and the management plan provides for harvesting 20% of the total bear population each year, in order maintain a stable population and fewer human conflicts. The management plan is a binding rule that is a result of a court case the Sportsmen’s Alliance won in 2005. Due to Gov. Murphy’s closure of state land, the 20% harvest rate has not been attained.

In November 2018, Sportsmen’s Alliance and our partners won a decision that found that the closure order may not be in accordance with the law. Litigation has continued and is heading towards a trial tentatively scheduled for the end of September – just before the October bear season.

“The experts at the NJDFW have repeatedly made it clear that the state’s effective management of black bears is heavily reliant on the participation of New Jersey sportsmen on both public and private lands,” said Jacob Hupp associate director of state services at the Sportsmen’s Alliance. “Highly politicized executive and legislative efforts to stop bear hunting in the state is not only government overreach, but it also raises questions about New Jersey’s elected officials lack of commitment to public safety.”

About the Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Sportsmen’s Alliance protects and defends America’s wildlife conservation programs and the pursuits – hunting, fishing and trapping – that generate the money to pay for them. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation is responsible for public education, legal defense and research.  Its mission is accomplished through several distinct programs coordinated to provide the most complete defense capability possible. Stay connected to Sportsmen’s Alliance: OnlineFacebookTwitter and Instagram.